Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/France/USA, 2015. See-Saw Films, DMC Film, Anton Capital Entertainment, Film 4, Creative Scotland, Studio Canal. Screenplay by Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, Todd Louiso, based on the play by William Shakespeare. Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw. Produced by Iain Canning, Laura Hastings-Smith, Emile Sherman. Music by Jed Kurzel. Production Design by Fiona Crombie. Costume Design by Jacqueline Durran. Film Editing by Chris Dickens. Cannes Film Festival 2015.
Shakespeare’s tale of regal hubris is brought to the screen brimming with powerful images. Michael Fassbender is excellent as the titular Scottish warrior who is told by three sage women that he will become the invincible ruler of the land. Emboldened by this prophecy, he and his ambitious wife (Marion Cotillard) speed up the process of getting him onto the throne by killing the existing ruler (David Thewlis) which eventually leads to their bloodlust for destroying anyone who dares challenge or oppose them. Much of the text has been excised in favour of long shots of landscapes and characters staring portentously at each other: think of how Pasolini adapted ancient plays or Andrea Arnold’s version of Wuthering Heights, except this film is not boring or frustrating. Rather it plays too much on one emotional note, a single hum of dread and anticipation stretched out over two hours that is always stunning to look at but, with few dramatic climaxes, somewhat overwrought. Cotillard is stunning as theatre’s first victim of guilt-related OCD, while Sean Harris makes a sturdy, imposing Macduff, but it’s often difficult to know where you are in the story given that the whole thing feels like a prologue.